Exploring Historic Old Town Alexandria, Virginia

Travel Guide

 Exploring Historic Old Town Alexandria, Virginia

When D announced he had a business trip to Alexandria, Virginia the last week of October, the kids and I decided last minute to tag along. Despite some setbacks at the beginning of the trip, including a missed flight, I’m really glad we went. Alexandria quickly climbed to the top of my list of favorite cities in the United States. Modern meets history perfectly with a city center that is both relaxed and vibrant. The old town, which sits right on the banks of the Potomac River, is quaint and full of historical sites. We only had one day to explore the sites, but I wish we had longer. I’m looking forward to future trips to explore more of the historic city of Alexandria.

Exploring Historic Old Town Alexandria, Virginia

We chose to focus our efforts on getting to know Old Town Alexandria. D left early in the morning for his conference, leaving the kids and I with the whole day ahead of us. After taking our time getting ready

What to Do in Old Town Alexandria

Old Town Alexandria is a mixture of historical sites, interesting shops, and delicious restaurants. The best way to get to know the Old Town is simply by walking around. I recommend you find a free, self-guided walking tour like this one.

Our tour started at Founders Park. We then headed to the Torpedo Factory Art Center by way of the waterfront- our first of many diversions of the morning. We made our way leisurely along the waterfront, admiring the view of the morning sun reflecting off the Potomac. If you’re looking for more fun, you can take a river tour leaving from Old Town. You will also find restaurants and attractions like the Torpedo Factory Art Center– which once served as an actual torpedo production plant and munitions storage leading up to and during WWII- at the waterfront.

Although the art center was the first stop on our walking tour, we decided not to go inside in order to see as many sites on the list as we could. On our next visit, I would like to visit because it sounds like a fascinating place that is fun for the kids.

Other notable stops on our tour included:

Alexandria City Hall and Market Square

The kids were fascinated by the large fountain that sits in the center of Market Square. As soon as Buddy saw it, he struggled to be free of the confines of the stroller and made his way directly to it. He would’ve flung himself in a nanosecond if I hadn’t been there to hold him back. We stayed for several minutes and let the kids run around and stretch their legs. A farmers market is also held at Market Square every Saturday from 7 am-noon.

Address: 301 King Street

Gadsby’s Tavern

Today, Gadsby’s Tavern is both a museum and a restaurant. Back in the early days of the United States, it was a popular societal establishment in colonial Alexandria. In fact, Gadsby’s Tavern received visits from several of the founding fathers, including George Washington.

Address: 134 North Royal Street

George Washington’s Townhouse

George Washington’s townhouse is currently a private residence. Back in the early days of Alexandria, it was where George Washington would stay when he was in town.

508 Cameron Street

The Spite House

Also a private residence, the Spite House wins the prize as the skinniest house in America. According to the historical scavenger hunt linked at the beginning of this post, the Spite House is only seven feet wide! This house was built to prevent wagons from entering the alley of an adjoining house.

Address: 523 Queen Street

Where to Eat in Old Town Alexandria

There are so many restaurants to choose from in Old Town. If you’re looking for a quick bite, you have your normal fast-food chains such as Starbucks or McDonald’s. However, for those looking for a more interesting culinary experience, here are three places in Old Town you won’t regret visiting.

Fish Market

Fish Market is located above Anchor’s Bar on King Street. If you love seafood, you’ll love this restaurant. Even if you don’t, there is still plenty to satisfy your hunger. I’m a huge fan of fish tacos- I consider them one of my favorite foods. In fact, I would say I am unofficially on the hunt for the best fish tacos in the world. (I’m always looking for recommendations so if you have any- anywhere in the world- send them my way. Okay, moving on.) The tacos at Fish Market were, in a word, amazing. Very tasty with just enough spice to bring out the natural flavors without overwhelming the dish.

La Madeleine

Remember what I said earlier about chain restaurants? Just ignore that for a second and go to La Madeleine. This French cafe specializes in soups, sandwiches, and salads. I had the Mediterranean Chicken and Feta sandwich and it was delicious. And they will always have my respect for creating a non-fruit item that my picky two-year-old actually ate and enjoyed. (I’m talking about you, Tomato Basil soup.)

Pop’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream Company

Located next door to Fish Market, Pop’s is a great place to go to indulge in your after-dinner sweet tooth.

Where to Stay in Alexandria

I recommend staying at the Marriott Residence Inn on Duke Street. With clean, spacious rooms and friendly staff, you are sure to have a pleasant stay. We were fortunate to be upgraded to a one-bedroom suite free of charge for D’s business trip. The location of the Residence Inn is perfect as it is a short walk from both the Metro and Old Town. A free continental breakfast is just the icing on the cake.

Tips for Visiting Old Town Alexandria

Old Town Alexandria is very walkable and parking is limited so I recommend taking public transportation when you can. The Metro stops at King Street, just a short walk away.

The sidewalks are narrow and uneven in some parts of Old Town. I strongly recommend ditching the stroller in favor of using a baby carrier for infants and having older kids walk.

Old Town Alexandria is a must-visit destination for history lovers visiting the DC area. As you walk its streets, you feel as if you’ve entered the past. Whether you’re in the mood to dive into history or take a leisurely stroll along the waterfront, you are in for an enjoyable day in Old Town Alexandria.

Would you visit Old Town Alexandria?

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